Sulfateq BV: A Map for Selling to this European Biotech Startup


Written by:
Amarpreet Singh

In this edition of Sponsor Atlas: Discovering Biotech Startups, we are looking at Sulfateq BV (Sulfateq), exploring the current affairs and future orientation of this emerging Dutch biotech company. We will talk about an overview of their operations, summarize their outsourcing needs, map out their development goals and decision-makers, and highlight some of their innovative strategies. If you have not read our other blogs on new biotech startups, be sure to check them out here.     

Sulfateq is an innovative biotechnology startup that is developing breakthrough compounds for the prevention of Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) and other diseases. Sulfateq's compounds are derived from their research on hibernation to provide a new mechanism of action for cell protection, organ protection, and prophylactic use, including a significant potential to support drug development for AKI prevention and beyond.                               

Business Overview

Located in the north of the Netherlands, Sulfateq BV was founded in April 2011 by Dr. Kees van der Graaf, an industrial pharmacist and a successful entrepreneur in biotech startups. Sulfateq's core business is to develop its proprietary platform technology consisting of therapeutics centered around SUL-compounds. Sulfateq’s website has a lot of information about its product pipeline, a proprietary therapeutic platform, and some of the recent publications. Data shows that the company has a staff of approximately 3-5 and annual revenue of $1M, likely from the worldwide sales of their flagship product, ROKEPIE®.  

ROKEPIE® was founded in 2011 as a part of Sulfateq after the development of a compound named ROKEPIE-S01, which is propelled by nature’s hibernation mechanism. The ROKEPIE® additive facilitates the storage and transportation of cells and tissues by making it easier and more robust. This non-toxic product is responsible for avoiding oxidative stress damage caused by low-temperature preservation. The hibernation-like state of the cells enabled by adding ROKEPIE® preserves the vital cell functions during storage and transport at 2-8°C. ROKEPIE® is available worldwide as a RUO-product. The research team is now aiming to apply these same hibernation-based protective mechanisms to grow their pipeline by working on potential medicines and other IVD products.       

Outsourcing Focus

Sulfateq has a couple of lead candidates already nearing the end of their pre-clinical phase. CMOs for Phase I/II clinical trial supplies, bioanalytical service providers, and pre-clinical CROs with animal model development for AKI, Diabetic Kidney Disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH) have a better chance of getting their foot in the door. 

Sulfateq’s Pipeline and R&D Focus

Sulfateq has multiple compounds under development in its product pipeline. SUL-138, one of their lead compounds, is at the end of the pre-clinical phase for AKI. Also in the pipeline are SUL-121 for Type II Diabetes and COPD, and SUL-150 for PAH. [2] Sulfateq has identified its SUL-compounds to support drug development for essential medical needs worldwide like Acute Kidney Injury, COPD, PAH, Obesity/Diabetes II, and potentially beyond. SUL-138 is on the drug development path to potentially being a therapy for kidney protection.

Cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass is associated with a significant risk of acute kidney injury. The incidence of postoperative AKI in patients undergoing cardiac surgery ranges from 7.7% to 28.1% in different studies and can, therefore, be considered a health risk and medical need. [3] The protection of major organs like the kidneys is also highly needed during major surgeries, and currently, there are no therapies available for kidney protection, or organ protection in general.  

The good news is that Sulfateq has conducted successful animal studies using its SUL-compounds to inhibit the occurrence of kidney injury following damage. SUL-138 is mainly focused around AKI during invasive heart surgery, as a successful prophylactic treatment to increase postoperative survival rate and decrease overall hospitalization costs. At this moment, Sulfateq is working on the final pre-clinical development of SUL-138, i.e. safety pharmacology, while drafting proposals for Phase I and Phase II clinical studies. [4] So far, Sulfateq BV has been successful in their animal studies using SUL-compounds. 

The second disease on Sulfateq’s radar is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), an overlooked public health problem. According to the World Health Organization, COPD is an under-diagnosed, life-threatening lung disease that may progressively lead to death. Sulfateq has also conducted successful animal studies using SUL-121, mainly focusing on counteracting airway constriction and immune activation. Sulfateq's early studies have been hopeful for further investigations in larger clinical trials. 

Decision Making  

  • Kees van der Graaf, President & CEO of Sulfateq. Kees is a serial entrepreneur specialized in the starting up of prospering companies/products in the pharmaceutical and biotechnological industry. He has successfully set up various biotech companies like ROKEPIE® (part of Sulfateq BV), Angteq BV, Alfateq BV, Citeq Health Products BV, and Bio-Intermediair B.V. He earned his degree in 1980 in Pharmacy with the specialization Toxicology and Bioanalysis and became a Dutch registered pharmacist in 1983 at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands.   
  • Guido Krenning - CSO of Sulfateq. Guido is a scientist with extensive knowledge of the cardiovascular system, tissue engineering, and molecular biology. Guido finished his master’s degree in Molecular Biology at the University of Groningen in 2005 and he obtained his Ph.D. in Medical Sciences (Cum Laude) in 2009 where he focused on cardiovascular tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. After a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School, Guido established his independent research group at the University Medical Center Groningen (2011). Currently, Guido is working on developing the SUL-compounds into clinical trials with a job as Principal Investigator at University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG). He also coordinates the International Research and Training Network on Diabetic Microvascular Complications (GRK1874/DIAMICOM). [6
  • Pieter Vogelaar - COO of Sulfateq. Pieter obtained his master’s degree in Medical Pharmaceutical Sciences in Groningen, the Netherlands in 2012. After having worked on several research projects involving cell culture and acquiring the necessary skills, he joined Sulfateq the same year. Pieter set up cell culture facilities and developed several methods to assess the protective capacities of Sulfateq-compounds in the cold-storage of cells that led to the development of ROKEPIE®-S01. He also uses this model to unravel the mechanism behind the protective effects of SUL-compounds, as well as determining the optimal conditions to achieve long-term hypothermic storage of cells. [7]    

Innovation 

With a decent amount of grant funding, significant progress in scientific benchwork through multiple publications, and executives with highly technical backgrounds, Sulfateq is making a lot of progress with their development pipeline and clinical studies. The grant and patent work are focused on the development of compounds for the prevention of cell injury and treatment of organ damage, as well as compounds for the treatment of chronic obstructive airway diseases, such as COPD or asthma. [8]

Sulfateq has been motivated by mammalian hibernation to develop innovative compounds that can offer equivalent protection against organ damage in patients. In pre-clinical testing, SUL-138 showed high efficacy for protection against cooling-rewarming damage in cell culture and animal models for acute and chronic kidney disease. Thus far, SUL-138 has proven to increase mitochondrial respiration during stress, thereby allowing for faster recovery of ATP. This effect was observed in various cell culture models for oxidative stress and cooling-rewarming injury. [9]

How can I find more European biotech startups? 

If you would like a simple solution for keeping an eye on European drug sponsor companies, like Sulfateq, without relying on a database and generic lists of leads each week, we at Zymewire are here to help. Reach out today, and stay tuned for the next installment of the Sponsor Atlas: Discovering Biotech Startups. 

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